Close friends Pam Hartley and Michelle Scarafile began The Charleston Basket Brigade in 2008 with a commitment to bring the community together to provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need in Charleston, SC. “When we found out that there were children going to bed hungry right here in Charleston, we knew we had to do something about it,” said Hartley.
The Basket Brigade concept was inspired by Anthony Robbins, whose foundation feeds more than two million each year. The fundraising effort for The Charleston Basket Brigade has tremendously grown over the years. “The first year, we fed 75 families. The second year, we raised over $12,900 to feed 430 families, and it has continued to grow,” said Scarafile. In 2011, the CBB raised $75,000 which fed 2,500 families – that is over 15,000 people! But this year, the duo has raised the bar for their biggest fundraising effort yet.
Hartley added, “This year, we have set our goal to feed over 3,333 families (an estimated 20,000 people) on Thanksgiving Day, and to do that we need to raise $100,000.”
Hartley and Scarafile met in 2006 during a leadership seminar held by Robbins and became fast friends. In 2008, Scarafile brought the idea to create a basket brigade to Hartley and they both quickly got into action. “I knew that Pam and I could really make a difference here in Charleston. When the recession hit, we knew that so many were impacted here locally,” Scarafile said.
This fundraising effort would not be possible without the commitment of Carolina One Real Estate, Communities In Schools, Piggy Wiggly, Momentum Marketing and many local businesses, organizations, caring friends, families and community members. “It only takes $30 to feed a family of 4-6 at Thanksgiving and we get donations from people in the community, as well as friends and family members that live out of state,” Scarafile said, “$30 goes a long way.”
Every single penny that is raised goes towards purchasing food. $30 feeds a family of six which includes a 10-12 lb. turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry sauce, a pumpkin pie, fresh rolls and butter. Each meal is assembled and anonymously hand delivered by CBB volunteers on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Inside each basket is an anonymous letter that reads, “This comes to you from someone who cares about you. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to be able to do this for someone else one day.”
Communities In Schools, a non-profit organization that serves over 10,750 students in 23 schools throughout Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley County, locates the families that will receive meal donations based on need and also maps out directions for delivery. Hundreds of local volunteers in the community, along with Carolina One staffers, raise money, assemble the meals at preset staging areas and deliver meals to the families. Piggly Wiggly provides discounts on food, boxes, and coordinates delivery of the food to staging areas throughout the Charleston area. Momentum Marketing provides public relations and event coordination assistance.
The heart of the Charleston Basket Brigade also lies within creating a family experience for the recipients of these meals. When the families receive their Thanksgiving basket, they get to cook it together and then eat the warm meal they made as a family at the dinner table. The responses from families that receive a basket from the group are overwhelmingly appreciative and oftentimes tear-filled. One parent said emphatically, “Oh thank you, thank you so much, prayers really do get answered.”